Opposing Separatism: August 2002–June 2004On August 3, 2002, President Chen Shui-bian tacked away from negotiations with China—and toward independence—by announcing, much as his predecessor Lee Teng-hui had done, that there were “two countries” on each side of the strait. He introduced legislation calling for a plebiscite to confirm this.
Earlier, a person claiming to be from the Taiwanese Presidential Office had asked for Stone’s support for even more aggressive policies of provocation of a U.S.-China crisis. Alarmed, Stone alerted the National Security Council and decided to visit Taiwan in September.
It seemed that a significant fraction of the DPP leadership core thought it was both feasible and desirable to provoke a crisis that would force the United States and Japan to stand up and then see China collapse. Independence fever had taken over Taiwan.
Jiang Zemin was holding his generals back from attacking Taiwan. But Chen Shui-bian was giving instructions to his foreign representatives to “light fires everywhere.” And the two countries theory was becoming the new status quo.
September 11, 2002: Taiwan Independence Fever
On Stone’s arrival in Taiwan on September 11, it seemed that Chen Shui-bian was going for broke. Many of his DPP constituents agreed with the provocative ideas of the secret envoy. And it seemed that Chen Shui-bian had been discouraged in his desires to open dialogue with the Mainland by comments made by Mainland representatives to representatives of his.
It seemed to mean gratuitous war. Arriving in Beijing on September 18, Stone prepared a detailed UN resolution for China that would throw cold water on Chen Shui-bian’s approach; it would confirm that the People’s Republic of China was the representative of China and urge, among other things, that UN member states advise Taipei that a plebiscite would not lead to their country’s recognition of Taiwan.
Stone also suggested a Sino-U.S. conference on avoiding provocations, using a white paper on the economic costs to Taiwan of becoming a separate country and encouraging Vice Premier Siew of Taiwan in his goal of a Cross-Strait Foundation for Economic Integration. China was urged to stay cool.
One China Principle Talks
Returning home on September 23, Stone sent Chen Shui-bian an idea concerning One China principle talks in which Chen Shui-bian would accept talks based on the One China principle without accepting the One China principle himself, in an effort to determine what outcomes were available from China. The Chinese premier may have embodied this idea in a speech, but Chinese movement is always subtle, and the speech in question threatened Taiwan, so no movement was noticed.
In Beijing on January 20, 2003, mainly to discuss North Korea, Stone urged, with regard to Taiwan: unilateral initiatives connecting U.S. arms sales with Chinese missile buildups and talks based on the One China principle. The Chinese representatives had discussed Stone’s earlier references to such talks in depth and seemingly would accept the idea. But they felt Chen Shui-bian was “election-driven” and would not try it.
Later, Stone invented and tried an “insulation” approach to the Three Links; in this notion, it would be agreed by both sides that nothing about the implementation of direct links for trade, communications, and travel would provide any precedent for unification discussions.
Later, in China, Stone urged subsidizing first-time visits of Taiwanese—especially “future leaders.” Stone urged a hot line between the Chinese and U.S. And he submitted seven ideas to Vice Minister Zhou Mingwei. One, in particular, was “People-to-People Persuasion”—proposed as an alternative to war if it seemed likely.
In Taiwan in February 2004, Chen Shui-bian was about to have his vote but was behind by 10 points in a two-candidate race this time. He was campaigning hard on ideological themes of independence. If he won, it looked like conflict; every red light on the Chinese threat board must have been on. But if KMT won, it looked like negotiations would start.
Multilateralizing The Cross-Strait Confrontation
Stone suggested, among other things, that the confrontation be multilateralized in the same way that President Bush had multilateralized the North Korean confrontation. This idea had earlier been well received, in a preliminary fashion, in the National Security Council in Washington.
Later, it occurred to Stone that this multilateralization course could be advanced not only by President Bush but also by the KMT. The notion of KMT urging a collection of states to buffer the discussion between Taiwan and China found ready acceptance by a key KMT official.
The situation was getting more dangerous by May 2004, and the Chinese bureaucracy was less friendly. Zhou Mingwei had been replaced, and the Taiwan Affairs Office had no one in high position that understood either Taiwan or America.
The Democratic Finesse: Giving the Lead to the Taiwanese Public
But the Office of Taiwan Affairs was worried. In a meeting with the deputy director of the Office of Taiwan Affairs, we pitched the “democratic-finesse” idea in which the Chinese treat the Taiwanese public as the “real Taiwanese authorities.” They would show respect for Taiwanese democracy by inviting a referendum on whether to open talks. It was presumed that the Taiwanese would then vote for talks.
CHEN SHUI-BIAN GIVES UP ON NEGOTIATIONS
On August 3, 2002, President Chen Shui-bian said there were “two countries” on each side of the Taiwan Strait and that legislation should be introduced to allow for a plebiscite. Based on this new two-fold escalation—even beyond Lee Teng-hui’s call for negotiations on a “special” state-to-state basis—I put aside a planned trip to Egypt and began preparations for a visit to Taiwan and China. Experts were not sure of the origin of this speech.
July 25: An Approach From a Secret Envoy From Taiwan
But a week before, on July 25, I had received an e-mail message request for an interview from a Taiwanese lawyer whom I had met in 1996. I should have set up a meeting immediately. At our meeting on August 8, he said he was an envoy from the Presidential Office in Taiwan—sent by a “deputy in the office of President Chen Shui-bian to ask you some questions about possible future policies.” He said, “Dr. Tsai (chairperson of the Mainland Affairs Council and at that time in Washington) is, of course, presenting the ‘cover’ story and I am on the real level. These questions concern policies we are considering.” He went on as follows:
How far can we push forward from autonomy to quasi-independence, i.e., push the envelope during this very conservative administration? Has the American policy changed from “One China” before to a new policy of ‘more than one China’ and can we move it there? Can the United States sell out Taiwan to China or is this impossible, as we believe, because of Congress (here, he smirked)? We think the United States would be bound to intervene if China attacked. So we think we can step-by-step go ahead.(Two different sources in Taiwan subsequently suggested who the deputy might be and provided the same name. However, the Presidential Office later investigated this approach and denied that it had sent any such envoy. But a high American official in Taiwan said the kind of thinking that this envoy was describing was widespread in DPP circles.)
We want to cut the cultural tie and have cultural independence and then move on to political independence. We think that provoking China and then asking the Americans to fix it may be the “only way out” for us.
We think Jiang Zemin is not good for Taiwan (or America) and he is against Democracy. We want to give him a “push.” So we hope that something will go wrong here when he meets with President Bush in October. Hu Jintao succeeded in getting through to America without accomplishing too much (which would have overshadowed Jiang) or anything going wrong that would have hurt his succession.
We want to exacerbate the conflicts between Jiang and Hu. Any change would be better. We want more shared power and more conflict within their leadership and more collective leadership. In the long run, they will crash.
So we want to push Jiang to step down. We want Bush to say something to Jiang that will make him unhappy, e.g., “that Taiwan has sovereignty,” so that when returns home, he will lose prestige in the power struggle.
We are considering a channel to communicate with Sinkiang and, eventually, recognizing them as independent—much as we have an office with the Dalai Lama for Tibet.
We are trying to create more problems for China to keep them busy so they won’t have time to concentrate on Taiwan. So what do you think? What should I report?
Reported and Rejected This Approach
I said I certainly did not approve and that I was going to Taipei as soon as possible. The next day, I called the National Security Council and talked to the official charged with Taiwan, Ford Hart, and faxed him a copy of my notes on this interview. And I wrote Richard N. Haass, director of policy planning at the State Department, about it as well, saying, “It is important that Policy Planning understand how far Taiwan is prepared to go to push the envelope of the conservatism of the administration.” (Note)
I redoubled my efforts to get to Taiwan. And, reflecting on what Chen Shui-bian had said on August 3 and what the envoy had said, I sent a message to Chen Shui-bian on August 12, warning: “The path which your Government is pursuing and considering is one of manipulation of the United States and provocation of China. It will poison the relations between the United States and Taiwan and lead, eventually, to great continuing harm to Taiwan—harm that cannot be protected against by America.”
And, on the same day, I sent a fax to Vice Minister Zhou Mingwei, saying: “The situation in Taipei may be even worse than has appeared so far. I advise not permitting your government to be provoked.” And I set the date for my next visit to China as September 18.
August 9, 2002: A Curious Meeting with MAC’s Dr. Tsai
On August 9, the day after the envoy said that Dr. Tsai was providing the “cover story,” I met with her, and a few others, over a Chinese meal. She was Chen Shui-bian’s main adviser on cross-strait affairs. She had been sent to Washington to take its pulse subsequent to the August 3 speech and to “clarify” the president’s remarks. In a two-hour-plus meeting, Dr. Tsai gave a characteristically legalistic justification.
The situation reminded me, I said, of a Washington Post cartoon showing President Lyndon Johnson, during the Vietnam War escalation, standing on an up-escalator proclaiming: “My position remains unchanged.” Dr. Tsai, I said, had been sent to assure us that Chen Shui-bian’s position “remained unchanged.” The Chinese response to the speech was very serious; the Mainland had begun, for the first time, to denounce Chen Shui-bian by name—an indication that it had decided not to deal with him.
The academic observers of Chen’s statement at the dinner, and even a former NSC official there, seemed less concerned than I—and I was not then sure why. But, in retrospect, I believe that most of the attending experts on Taiwan favored Taiwan and were reluctant to voice views that would fray their relations with Taiwan’s representatives. Ironically, even while American observers were trying to find differences between Chen’s statement and the two-state theory of Lee Teng-hui, the Taiwan representatives in the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office were admitting that the two theories were identical.
In Taiwan, Chen’s Speech Was Received Quietly
I arrived in Taiwan on September 12. The American Institute in Taiwan representative had reacted strongly and negatively to Chen Shui-bian’s speech, but others had not and the China Times had editorialized: “But who reacted strongly...?” It looked like Chen was going to get away with it. And there had been no U.S. retribution: Mrs. Chen was still going to Washington, and the Taiwanese deputy defense minister was still going to be received at the Pentagon.
Chen’s predecessor, Lee Teng-hui, had not provoked China from 1988 to 1994 but had turned provocative in 1995–1996. It seemed that Chen, like Lee, was now changing course and had decided to go for broke. I learned that in mid-July, when DPP called home its foreign representatives for instructions, National Security Adviser Chou I-jen—-on explicit instructions from the Presidential Office—-had called for “offensive diplomacy setting fires everywhere.” At this time, it seemed to experienced observers that DPP would win not only the next election but also foreseeable future ones; the danger was obvious.
A scholar said that in April, Chen Shui-bian had sent three envoys to China. Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office had welcomed the move but said it was waiting for favorable deeds. And since Chen Shui-bian did not get a favorable response from Beijing, and since there was political pressure from the new party of former President Lee Teng-hui, the Taiwan Solidarity Union, Chen had changed course. The immediate effect of August 3 was to cool down China fever for investing in China.
The commentator thought that Chen Shui-bian did not really want the Three Links anyway because they would destroy the political balance in Taiwan. There seemed little chance of getting cross-strait talks started again. A major problem was that the conservatism in the U.S. administration persuaded Chen Shui-bian that he could get away with more. (In fact, Chen Shui-bian’s actions, in due course, frightened Washington.).
DPP Thinking Was Consistent with the Provocative Comments of the Envoy
A DPP insider described some of the DPP’s illusions and intentions. He said that 30–50 percent of the DPP leadership core thought that Japanese, U.S., and Taiwanese pressure would lead to a collapse of China because the Chinese economy was so weak and its military was corrupt. Accordingly, they wanted to provoke such a crisis and have Japan and the United States stand up with them and then see China collapse. This was (and is) the core ideology of the Pan Green wing, he said, and is the grand strategy for Taiwan that is believed by those who wrote the August 3 speech. This, of course, was completely consistent with the point of view of the envoy sent to me.
Meanwhile, a ranking American official confirmed that there was “a lot of that (kind of reasoning) around.” The American felt that now, in Taiwan, a hard line looks brave and a soft line looks cowardly. The Pan Green alliance members were poorer, less educated, and easier to manipulate. But as DPP grew in size, instead of 60 percent of DPP pursuing a hard line and 40 percent pursuing a soft line, the ratio would shift to 50–50 and DPP would get more moderate.
On Sunday, September 15, I had breakfast with the spokesperson of the Presidential Office, James Huang, an old acquaintance who had translated for me some years before in a three-hour interview with C.F. Koo. He made the best possible case for Chen Shui-bian’s August 3 speech. But it seemed very weak indeed. [Huang later became foreign minister and subsequently resigned.]
I learned that the American Institute in Taiwan director, Douglas Paal, had tried to cool the enthusiasts for independence by asking them the $64,000 question: “But who would recognize you?” But people were “drunk with democracy” and felt they could, by voting, get whatever they wanted. Anyone speaking out in Taiwan would be criticized in the newspapers.
I Provided a Warning to the Presidential Office
I told a representative of President Chen Shui-bian about the secret envoy and, giving him the transcript and a letter to the president about it, I said, “True Friends Criticize.” The representative's response was, “We really rely upon you.” The letter summarized what the envoy had expressed as policy X. In four paragraphs, it said: the policy “achieves nothing positive” and “makes Taiwan a target for Chinese enmity” and continued that “American could not defend Taiwan” in the face of such a policy and that “Americans will resent policy X.” (Appendix)
A Taiwanese expert on China reminded me that the Chinese generals wanted offensive action after the two-state theory announcement of 1996 by Lee Teng-hui, but President Jiang Zemin pulled them back by asking them to come back when they were 100 percent sure that their attack would be successful. After the similar August 3 statement of Chen Shui-bian, the generals apparently said the same thing, but Jiang Zemin said that “we have to be very alert but still be patient”—and he authorized no clashes.
Trip 21: China (September 18, 2002) Looking for Counterbalancing Solutions
I went on to China on September 18. Arising early, I invented and drafted a UN resolution that would throw cold water on the secessionist ideas. It called on the UN General Assembly to reaffirm that the People’s Republic of China was the legitimate representative of China. To discourage threats to peace and security in the region, it invited member states to advise Taiwan authorities that no plebiscite unauthorized by the United Nations would lead the member states to recognize Taiwan. (Appendix)
At the Institute for American Studies, I spoke to about 12 people, emphasizing the great difference between America’s determination to defend Taiwan, on the one hand, and its limited political interest in recognizing Taiwan, on the other.
After lunch, I talked to its director, Wang Jisi, for 30 minutes and, I felt, “sold” him two ideas for useful conferences. (One was a Sino-U.S. conference preparing for possible Taiwanese provocations.) Later I met with the arms control director in the Foreign Ministry, Liu Jieyi, who was very cordial and said I was considered, in China, to be the father of the ABM Treaty.
At 3:30 p.m., I was back at the hotel working at the computer and preparing a two-page letter to Qian Qichen with the UN resolution above attached and a second attached memo “Forging Sino-U.S. Alliance with Regard to Taiwan” was prepared in the morning. (Appendix)
At 5 p.m., I was picked up for the dinner with Zhou Mingwei that lasted from 5:30 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Zhou Mingwei said that I was “unique” in preparing materials—everyone else just engages in conversations.
He was not certain that the United States would never recognize Taiwan. He said Jiang does like to know what the foreigners are thinking and gave the impression that often, but not always, my material finds its way upward.
He seemed to like the two conferences I outlined earlier for Wang Jisi. He was apparently becoming a member of the Party Congress so that, numerically, he represented 2,000 party members. I recommended he undertake a trip to the United States to determine on what bases the United States and China could cooperate.
SEPTEMBER 20, 2002: China Thinking of Ways to “Cause Pain”
I wrote a letter to General Xiong, which I later faxed to the Chinese Institute for International Strategic Studies (CIISS) he chairs, warning against military action and suggesting preparations for nonmilitary actions instead. (Appendix)
A nonmilitary staff person told me that China was studying how to cause “pain” in Taiwan and had many options with which to do it. Volunteers, or even terrorists, might be involved, and the ethnic divisions inside Taiwan might be exploited. Economic sanctions and pressures were certainly under consideration.
I visited the China Reform Forum, which runs a policy workshop on about $100,000 a year. I offered to cooperate with them by sharing ideas on issues of common interest. They became my host for subsequent visits and were extremely helpful in arranging appointments and exchanging views.
Looking for Proposals to Avoid War
I worked at the computer from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., preparing a more substantive letter to General Xiong to take with me to CIISS in case war loomed. I recommended (1) Using the International Community; (2) Providing Warnings; and (3) Graduated Responses. I emphasized that the Taiwanese were Chinese and, like the Chinese, would react very strongly to efforts to intimidate them. (Appendix) I took this letter to CIISS and spoke there from 10 a.m. to 11:30. a.m.
Over lunch, an old friend said people were much more sophisticated now and even wrote to the Foreign Ministry about things like the spy-plane incident and demanded an answer.
Later, an official of the Reform Institute agreed with my idea for a UN resolution and agreed that the basic problem was Chinese domestic politics. He was looking for some breakthrough in U.S.-Chinese relations, such as working together on counterterrorism, and he wondered if I have any good ideas.
On Monday, September 23, I returned home at 9 p.m.; that night, I prepared a private letter for Chen Shui-bian on the situation in China. (Appendix) I warned him that China had a “long list of options” for causing pain and that “it would not be prudent” to assume that China will not suddenly change course. If it did, it would do so “in clever and frightening ways.”
TUES., SEPT. 24, 2002: One China Principle Talks
At noon, in Washington, I lunched with Lee Yuan Tseh, and he agreed to present two ideas to Chen Shui-bian if I would write them down that evening and fax them to California. One involved talks between the military on both sides, and the other was the idea for One China principle talks without Chen accepting the One China principle himself. (Appendix)
At 3 p.m., I went to the American Enterprise Institute to hear Mrs. Chen Shui-bian speak and was introduced to her warmly by some Taiwanese officials.
The next evening, Lee Yuan Tseh called and we discussed the memo.
I learned that day that it was Chen Yunlin of the Taiwan Affairs Office who sent word to Chen Shui-bian, through the head of EVA Airlines, that China was not going to work with Chen because they thought he would not be re-elected.
Catalytic Diplomacy’s decision to divert to Asia in response to the August 3 speech was appreciated on both sides of the strait. My coming up with new proposals, and even offering them in writing, seemed to be well appreciated on both sides. In general our influence was rising on both sides—so far. How long this would go on was not clear because the cross-strait situation was becoming ever more zero-sum. But there still seemed room for peace proposals.
January and March 2003: Intervening Trips Involving North Korea
In January and March 2003, I made visits to South Korea, China, and Russia and then visited Japan in September, with a view to working on the problem of North Korean nuclear weapons. These trips are discussed in a section on North Korea.
But the trip to China in January provided opportunities for discussion of Taiwan with Vice Minister Zhou Mingwei, and I gave him a letter that made three points and that we discussed for 90 minutes. (Appendix)
First, I noted that President Jiang had raised with President Bush linking deployment of Chinese short-range missiles facing Taiwan with U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and urged unilateral initiatives to carry it out. (It seemed that China had raised this idea, but the U.S. response was that the Taiwan Relations Act precluded the United States from discussing with China what it would sell, and, in any case, that was a political problem.)
Second, I noted that Vice Premier Qian had given a speech in 2002 saying that “on the premise of the One China principle, all issues can be discussed.” Was this a green light for the idea I had recommended before, of having the talks based on the One China principle but not requiring Chen to accept the principle.? (I learned that my position had been discussed in China “in depth” and that their statement had been the Chinese position for some time. They had deleted words like “precondition” and just referred to the talks being “based” on the One China principle. Zhou was pessimistic about this working, and for good reasons, but I urged that it become part of the Chinese peace offensive.)
And third, I urged that China host talks on North Korea that, it turned out, had just been offered by the Chinese Ambassador in Washington—something evidently developed in the preceding few days.
THE TRIP TO TAIPEI: OCTOBER 2003
On October 1, en route to San Francisco, I began sneezing. The dread possibility that I would arrive in disease-frightened Asia was successfully controlled only by taking a gram of vitamin C an hour for several hours. Thank God for Linus Pauling.
An expert observer explained that the administration of Chen Shui-bian was misleading everyone by using, in English, the term “referendum” when it meant, in Chinese, “plebiscite.” Referendums refer to matters that have been approved first by the Parliament. What Chen Shui-bian really wanted was a plebiscite that would bypass the legislature and permit the public to vote on proposals designed by the ruling DPP. Historically, plebiscites were organized for changes of boundaries and self-determination. So the DPP was using the word for plebiscite in Chinese but translating the word into English as “referendum” to make it less provocative politically because referendums were permitted by the existing ROC Constitution.
Chen Shui-bian continued to push the envelope of his relationship with the United States, for example, exploiting transits of the United States for substantive political business. The DPP was also pushing hard on de-Sinization—rewriting history books to play down the role of China and playing up Taiwanese history. People had been told so often that they were not Chinese that they were starting to believe it.
At 11:30 a.m., I met the opposition candidate for president, Lien Chan, chairman of the KMT, the party that had ruled China before Chairman Mao.
He said he would go to China if elected, on a “Journey of Peace,” but it was obvious that he was not pushing this in the face of the widespread anti-Chinese feeling in Taiwan. He said that the “market for unification” policies was small now and getting smaller. As far as parliamentary exchange was concerned, something I suggested, he said they now had “one-way” exchange in which the Taiwanese parliamentarians went to China but the reverse did not occur.
He was quite interested to learn that his predecessor, President Lee Teng-hui, had taken my Northeast Strategy graph from Chapter 28 of my life memoir and, with a deft change, published it as his own in a 1999 work. I suggested he try this strategy as a campaign idea. (In 2008, the KMT was, in fact, taking this approach, as a high-level KMT official assured me. In particular, in 2009, China reciprocated for better relations with agreement to permit Taiwan to be an observer at the World Health Assembly, which ended the long denial of Taiwan's participation in any U.N. agencies.)
Lien Chan, who speaks English well and has a friendly manner, appeared not to be too up on such things as (1) whether people in DPP wanted to provoke a crisis in U.S.-China relations to further their goals, or (2) what exactly DPP wanted to put in its Constitution. He told me, very sincerely, “We respect you.” And it was obvious that this was the only reason I had been able to get a 30-minute appointment in the middle of the presidential campaign—a campaign that terminated only six months later in a March election.
Former Cabinet Officer Su Chi
At noon, I lunched with the main foreign policy adviser to the KMT, Su Chi, who had been President Lee Teng-hui’s chief of the important Mainland Affairs Council. He said the KMT was very short of money—far from the status it once had of being the richest political party in the world! (This money was stolen, it seems, by corrupt KMT cronies of Lee Teng-hui.)
I learned that Lee Teng-hui had used my graph in a private conversation with the former American Institute of Taiwan chairman—in effect our ambassador at the time—Richard Bush, to argue, “How could I be against unification; this graph shows I am for it.” (In fact, he had modified my graph to remove any implication that reunification was the goal but left “better relations” in its place.)
Su Chi thought my Northeast Strategy had something to say for it.
After reading two months of newspaper back issues, I had a brief but cordial and useful telephone conversation with Deputy Minister of Defense Lin Chong-pin. He said that China had adopted the 16-character slogan “remain cool” in the upcoming election. Asked if he was worried, from a defense point of view, about the provocative quality of Chen Shui-bian’s program of referendums and a new Constitution, he said he was not.
The next day some young DPP people thought Chen Shui-bian was moving too quickly and running unnecessary risks with China. They agreed that Taiwan was “drunk with democracy” and did not really know what democracy meant. I was amazed to discover that these three DPPers thought it might be better if KMT won the election. They thought that DPP was better in opposition than as a ruling party. And they thought that DPP might be a better party after such a loss.
It seems that a situation of no-war, no-peace—which might be China’s response to Taiwanese provocation—would hurt Taiwan more than China. In particular, 150,000 Taiwanese living in China would have to rework what they were doing. The Taiwanese love the Chinese market.
There were constant appeals to populism. Corruption was up, even with DPP. The Taiwanese were extremely fractious and the Mainlanders were dying out. There was a kind of Cultural Revolution atmosphere in Taiwan in favor of independence, and everything was politicized. Each party could block the other for the next four years, and this chaos in the political field would have economic consequences someday. Taiwan seemed completely consumed (as it does today) by the quarrel with the Mainland.
On October 5, 2003, I had a two-hour meeting with a well-placed insider—a thoughtful, intelligent, and precise person who always makes an excellent defense of Chen Shui-bian’s policies. I concluded from this conversation that the mysterious “envoy” who had visited me in Washington probably was sent by an associate and friend of Chen Shui-bian, in a real effort to determine whether I would support DPP creating a crisis between the United States and China. This person, it seemed, was trying to build a coalition in the ROC Presidential Office for provocative policies and thought my endorsement might help. As someone had joked before, some apparently considered my vote part of the decision-making process inside the DPP.
I saw also that the reservations that DPP had about the Three Links went deeper than even I had realized, and I now doubted that DPP promises to achieve these Three Links would ever be achieved under DPP.
At this meeting, an “insulation” idea occurred—that both sides should announce at the beginning of any agreement on the Three Links that nothing in the agreement would be considered a precedent for the political positions of the two sides more generally.
Later, I met with a senior adviser to Vice President Annette Lu who advises her, in particular, on cross-strait relations. He agreed that the Three Links posed problems for Taiwanese identity and that Chen Shui-bian did indeed always say “later” about the Three Links.
At noon, I enjoyed an extraordinary four-hour lunch in the private room of a very expensive hotel, hosted for five persons by an unusual woman, Sisy Chen. Ms. Chen was, a year earlier, one of three “conveners” (rotating chairpersons) of the Foreign Affairs Committee. She ran a widely watched TV program that was the center of attention of KMT supporters. Earlier, for five years she had been the spokesperson for the DPP. And, at this time, she was in Parliament without party affiliation.
One of the attendees was a prominent young pollster whose opinions I had been reading that morning in the Taipei Times. He said that women were nervous about the rapid trends toward independence but that young people liked the idea of a new Constitution. People were apathetic about corruption and ideology but very interested in economic issues. The disinterest in the new Constitution was so great that TV commentators just stopped talking about it—people considered it “pie in the sky.”
The pollster, Emile C.J. Sheng, had two relevant questions, which he put to people: “If China becomes democratic, would you unify with it?” and “If China agreed not to invade, would you support independence?” From answers to these questions, he was able to deduce that 47 percent are pragmatic and agree to one or both questions. But 53 percent are leaning strongly in one direction or the other (independence or unification).
He said DPP wanted the new Constitution adopted via referendum so as to finesse the 75 percent limitation in the Constitution on amendments.
Taipei Times thought Chen hoped to provoke China into some angry gesture that would help him win the election.
It looked like Chen Shui-bian’s original ideas about “political integration” have been abandoned in his newer approach of announcing that there existed one country on each side of the strait.
The next day, at noon, I met over lunch with a representative of former President Lee Teng-hui’s TSU party thinktank, John Chang. Chang is not only Taiwanese but also 10 percent aborigine. He achieved a Cambridge University doctoral degree with honors. He is, of course, strongly anti-Chinese. He said Mainlanders were now only 17 percent of those people living in Taiwan. They more often returned to China than the Taiwanese and, indeed, were encouraged to go back by being told that their pensions will happily be paid to them in China. He considered Taiwan a “dangerous virus” inside China with new ideas about democracy and such that would lead to change in China.
Hsiao Bikhim: A Key Part of the DPP Brain Lobe
At 2:30 p.m., I met for 30 minutes with the now-very-famous Hsiao Bi-khim, who now holds a countrywide seat representing the entire island. Since she continues to run the international office of the DPP, she is extremely busy and, always, stressed out. She is a tremendous asset to the DPP and to its relations with the United States. I asked about the insulation idea and she said, “If they agreed, we would.”
Chen Shui-Bian’s Private Secretary
A source in the Presidential Office said it had been surprised that there had been no Chinese reaction to the Chen Shui-bian campaign statement. He agreed that neither side was currently much interested in negotiating with the other and did not deny that the Chen Shui-bian campaign was motivated by politics rather than Taiwanese national interests.
I asked him to have the DPP announce by what percentage the Constitution would have to be passed (e.g., 67 percent or 75 percent) so as to allay fears in both China and Washington of too-rapid change. I decided to call this the Percentage Stabilization Idea.
At dinner with a staunch DPP supporter, the psychology of the DPP became apparent. Confronted with my urgings for caution, she said: “We have, all our lives, heard cautions and have brushed them aside and nothing has happened.” These original DPPers, living the impossible dream of having gone from prison to power, are hard to persuade that other impossible dreams are not out there for the taking.
On Tuesday, October 7, I had a two-and-a-half hour meeting, over lunch, with Lee Yuan Tseh. The KMT’s analysis that his press conference had supplied the winning margin for Chen Shui-bian had led KMT to sling mud at him at every subsequent opportunity. They wanted to ensure that he would lack the prestige to swing the election again in 2004.
I described a recent Heritage Foundation meeting in which the panel of speakers had, in postpanel discussions, agreed that Taiwan’s interests might be better served by having KMT win. They felt that KMT had a better record of managing the economy and a better chance of carrying out the Three Links. One thought that DPP would be better in holding down corruption. Lee clearly, and understandably, preferred the DPP. I showed him a memo on this meeting. I believed—as history showed—that he had the power to determine the winner in the election. He, understandably, preferred the DPP.
American Institute of Taiwan: Director Douglas Paal
At 2:30 p.m., I spent an intense and productive 30 minutes with Douglas Paal, head of the American Institute on Taiwan, which is, effectively, the U.S. embassy in Taiwan. He seemed to like my idea of having the DPP announce that 75 percent of the vote would be required to amend the Constitution. With regard to insulation, he said that Qian Qichen had tried this at the urging of a DPP official (i.e., that direct links were neither internal nor international, but only “cross-strait”), only to find that Chen Shui-bian refused the idea. So Qian Qichen was annoyed and withdrew the notion.
It seemed that Taipei was trying to destroy the One China policy in the United States. The Washington Post was running an interview in which Chen Shui-bian said, “Taiwan was not part of any state,” meaning that Chen did not have to do what Washington wanted. And he said Taipei was trying to push offensive weapons that could attack the Chinese coast.
A Key Chen Shui-Bian Adviser
At 5 p.m., I went to the Presidential Office to meet with a high official in private. A vigorous but warm and friendly conversation took place, in which I expressed my fear that Taiwan was now moving down a pointless and provocative track, designed mainly to win an election, and certain eventually to provoke a bad reaction from China. Indeed, it might well antagonize the U.S. government and citizens and persuade them that Taiwan was a “Tricky Dicky” trying to manipulate trouble between the United States and China to help very slight Taiwanese interests in “more dignity” and the use of different names for Taiwan.
In answer to my question of where all this would end, he said Taiwan sought a reasonable compromise between two “realities”—the reality that Taiwan was, in practice, independent, and the reality that the international community would not recognize it as such. He referred to growth in the number of PRC missiles aimed at Taiwan. I pressed him on whether Taiwan would agree to a limit on U.S. arms sales in return for a limit on the missiles. He said Taiwan had not refused this but that it would require the two sides to talk.
I thereupon suggested the insulation approach, and he called it “very creative” and interesting. He thought that if DPP won the election, China would be forced to deal with Chen Shui-bian. I asked “Why on Earth?” Taiwan was small, and Chinese interests did not require it to deal with Taiwan. On the contrary, China could ignore Taiwan forever.
I had earlier emphasized to him the fact that the PRC could cause pain in Taiwan without open war, or even without accepting responsibility for its actions. They have long lists of such possibilities, and the United States cannot defend against them.
The main Catalytic Diplomacy point I urged on him was that DPP should announce that (1) it was not going to require less than 75 percent to approve the new Constitution and (2) the Constitution would be put through the legislative Yuan so that the referendum was a true referendum.
THE VISIT TO CHINA: October 11–October 15, 2003
After a short visit to Seoul to work on North Korea issues (discussed in a different section), I moved on to China.
After breakfast with a likeable general, I nevertheless concluded that two-way conversation with the Chinese generals was not feasible. Although the ones I meet are often former defense attachés in the Chinese embassy in Washington, fluent in English and westernized, they seem only to repeat the banalities of Chinese foreign policy. They justify their silence by saying they consider their own personal opinions irrelevant and potentially misleading and, even over a quiet breakfast, won’t be drawn out.
Reviewing my notes on the trip so far, I was struck with the constant refrain of Lee Yuan Tseh that China needed to do something nice for the Taiwanese people. From this, it occurred to me that China might subsidize first-time visits of Taiwanese—especially younger people and future leaders—to China.
Over lunch, an expert on cultural exchange helped develop the notion. The border guards do keep track of who is a first-time visitor, and an institution could be created and funded in Beijing to help arrange such trips. He said that the government always talked of people-to-people exchange but never funded it.
He said that the new Politburo would be under even more pressure than the old one to respond vigorously to Taiwanese provocations because it is new. But the watchword now in China was to stay out of the Taiwanese election process.
Preparing for Sino-Taiwanese Crises
At the Institute for American Studies, I agreed to send its director, Wang Jisi, an e-mail message proposing the three possibilities that I had raised with him: (1) nonviolent reactions that China could make to Taiwanese provocations; (2) ways that U.S. and China could avoid provocation by Taiwan; and (3) ways to use the crisis to draw U.S. and China together.
The Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council
From 2:15 p.m. to 3:45p.m., I talked to Vice Minister Zhou Ming-wei, deputy director of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, with special responsibility for U.S.-Chinese affairs.
I presented seven ideas for keeping the China-Taiwan situation under control in various contingencies. He expressed warm thanks for the energy I was putting into this and for my, he felt, invariably concrete suggestions.
We discussed the internal situation in Taiwan, which he understood quite well but not as well as I did after my recent visit. He thought Chiou I-jen was in charge of the campaign for independence, whereas I believed he had lost control and was more moderate than the amateurs trying to run it. He felt Taiwan was going two steps forward and one step back. He promised to ask former Vice Premier Qian Qichen whether he wanted to see me, now that Qian was out of office and we could have meetings that were more private.
I arrived home on October 16.
On December 17, the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council in Beijing released a long document, “Three Direct Links Across the Taiwan Strait.” It seemed very forthcoming and followed the insulation approach by saying they wanted to “shelve political disputes and prevent political differences from affecting and interfering” with the Three Links. In particular, it said: “Negotiations concerning the ‘three direct links’ are not political negotiations; they may be carried out beyond the political implications of one China, but should seek for practical resolution of the various concrete problems involved, so as to accelerate the progress of the ‘three direct links.’” (Note)
But inside Taiwan, the electoral pressures of the forthcoming March 2004 presidential election produced movement in a different direction. Behind in the polls in the summer, against a combined ticket of Lien Chan (KMT) and James Soong (PFP), Chen began moving up in the fall. Two huge rallies, led by former President Lee Teng-hui, for a change in Taiwan’s official name from the Republic of China to Taiwan, encouraged Chen Shui-bian, who began emphasizing passage of a law on referendums to provide a new Constitution. China was warning against both, and President Bush was agreeing with China. Chen’s idea was to turn the 2004 election itself into a referendum of some kind so as to bring out strong supporters of independence.
On October 6, 2003, Chen Shui-bian gave an interview to The Washington Post, saying, “Taiwan is not a province of one country nor is it a state of another” and that its democratic reform “is our own internal affair.” He accused China of “hostile intent” and said Taiwan would “walk our own road, our own Taiwan road.” (Note)
On December 18, a significant Guest Comment for National Review Online, by Ross H. Munro, a Taiwan supporter, was unexpectedly taking a different line. In an article entitled “Blame Taiwan.” Munro said, “Bush-administration envoys and Douglas Paal, the de facto U.S. ambassador to Taiwan, repeated pleaded with President Chen not to make waves and provoke China, underlining how vital it was to global U.S. strategic interests that stability prevails as much as possible in China-Taiwan relations.”
I sent a note on December 3 to the president’s office, and to another DPP friend, saying: “The DPP, which began as such an idealistic and courageous political party, appears now to have changed. To stay in power, it is prepared to risk the security of Taiwan, to antagonize the United States, and to engage in cynical maneuvers with a view to provoking politically useful anger in Beijing. This is irresponsible behavior by any standard. And it is losing friends in America in liberal and conservative circles alike.”
In a note to Chiou I-jen on the same day, I added that the Wall Street Journal’s editorial on that day said: “Mr. Chen is flirting with disaster like never before” and “trying to provoke China into denouncing him one more time.”
Andrew N.D. Yang, secretary general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies, was writing that Chen Shui-bian’s “determination” to push ahead on a referendum at the March 20, 2004, presidential election could lead “to an imminent military showdown in the near future.”
FEB. 2004: RUN-UP TO THE MARCH TAIWANESE ELECTION
If the Taiwanese independence movement, headed by the DPP party, won the March 20 presidential election, a truly dangerous situation would come to exist. The DPP, having won the presidency in 2000 in a three-party race, was trying now to win the presidency again in a two-party race—its two opponents of four years ago having joined together. In order to win the race, against popular odds, it decided the previous April to emphasize ideological independence issues to rally its base. If it won, it had already promised dramatic further advances in the presidential inaugural speech and in a revision of the Constitution.
The Chinese in Beijing had been patient thus far. Beijing bit its tongue after the year 2000 election—our advice may have played a minor role—in the hope that it could deal with new President Chen Shui-bian. It hoped—we hoped—that he might be the Nixon who could go to China and cut a deal.
On July 26, 2001, while I was in Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian did accept the minimal condition of China, that is, the 1992 Consensus in which both sides agreed there was one China albeit with different interpretations of what that one China was. But within ten hours, fundamentalists in his party forced Chen Shui-bian to withdraw what he had said. Since that time, Chen Shui-bian has been on a self-described “different road” in the march toward independence.
He had been encouraged in this by the creation of a new party, the Taiwanese Solidarity Union, headed by former President Lee Teng-hui. This party took an even more nationalist and aggressive stance than the DPP. Though it was small, it was very clever and active, and DPP required TSU support to get a majority in Parliament. These two parties formed the Pan Green coalition.
Arrayed against them was a Pan Blue coalition, including the KMT, the traditional ruling party of Chiang Kai-shek, and the People’s First Party of James Soong, a party that split off from the KMT in the 2000 election. It was this split that allowed Chen Shui-bian to win the presidency with only 39 percent of the vote. Now Chen Shui-bian needed 50 percent.
The danger that would arise from a Pan Green victory came from these considerations.
First, there now appeared to be no way to persuade China that it could deal with Chen Shui-bian and, accordingly, if he won, China faced no prospects of negotiation for four years.
Second and worse, many believed that if the Pan Green coalition could win this time in a two-coalition race, it might have decisively broken through and would continue to win for a long time. Most longtime ruling parties like the KMT begin to wither away after they begin to lose, like the Communist Party in Russia or the Milosevic Socialist Party in Serbia. The opportunists leave the party and it loses its fundamental purpose as well.
Third, and still worse, Chen Shui-bian had made no secret of his interest in having the Taiwanese population support the independence that he had already pronounced. He had already announced that, on his election, he would describe how Taiwan could achieve its “dream.” He had announced a new Constitution for 2006—which aroused fears in China that the new Constitution would abandon all pretense that the Republic of China was a competitor for the representation of China as a whole—and hence would abandon any One China framework.
With this in mind, if Pan Green won, China might decide that Taiwan should be brought to its senses through some kind of hostile act. Or it might attempt a takeover by force. This was something it was preparing for with renewed military expenditures.
It would, presumably, wait until after the U.S. 2004 presidential election in the hope of getting a more friendly administration than it saw now. And it might wait until it was somewhat stronger. But the 2005—2010 time frame was a relevant timeframe for such an attack. And former Vice Premier of China Qian Qichen has already advised Secretary of State Colin Powell that the U.S. failure to adopt a clear-cut position in the strait was prejudicing the possibility of peace there.
On the other hand, if Pan Blue won, China would, without doubt, make a maximal effort to negotiate with the KMT and its leader, Lien Chan. This, Beijing would feel, would be its last chance. Beijing had already made a major concession, in December, that it would negotiate the Three Links (travel, trade, and mail) with Taiwan without requiring any reference to One China. And KMT also had said both that it wanted the Three Links and that it would put aside considerations of sovereignty to negotiate it.
Accordingly, if KMT won, it seemed likely that Taiwan and the Mainland would be tied somewhat closer. Beijing would, accordingly, have less fear of Taiwan drifting away into the sea. And the situation would be stabilized. In addition, a win for KMT would give KMT new life and prevent Taiwan from becoming a one-party state led by the Independence Party. This was, after all, a real possibility on an island where more and more Mainlanders (Taiwanese born of Mainland parents) were dying off and where more and more young people accepted the nationalist notion that they were not Chinese at all but just Taiwanese.
Some American Experts on Taiwan Hope for KMT
On February 10, I attended a meeting in Washington on Taiwanese trade and strategy. After the formal meeting, I asked key speakers which party’s election would best serve the interests of Taiwan. They all flushed at the political incorrectness of this question, but their answers were similar. With regard to the issue of corruption, DPP was the better winner since KMT was, traditionally, more corrupt. But, they thought, KMT was a better manager of the economy and much better positioned to negotiate the Three Links and to deal with China. I prepared a one-page memorandum of these conversations to discuss with my friends in Taiwan.
On February 12, I had a ten-minute conversation with Therese Shaheen, who is chairman of the AIT board. She was married to the chief of staff to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and was very close to Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Thus she was a key insider—and very conservative. She recognized the dangers of the Taiwanese independence movement dragging the United States into conflict with China but appeared to worry—as did the Pentagon—that if negotiations start between Taiwan and the Mainland, Taiwan might be swallowed up and the United States would “lose” Taiwan.
THE TRIP TO TAIWAN: October 1-8, 2003
I arrived on a nonstop flight from San Francisco to Taipei via EVA Airlines because, for the moment at least, United no longer flew nonstop, and because EVA had an excellent super-economy class where, for a few hundred dollars extra, one gets some of the amenities of business class that make the 14-hour westbound flight bearable.
A high-ranking KMT official worried that a February 28 DPP ceremony—in which 1 million people were planning to join hands from one end of the island to the other—might further help DPP. Asked what China should do, he said it required a long-term position that would reverse the policy of isolating and boycotting Taiwan. China had “done nothing good for us.” As for concrete ideas, he suggested only “sharing the Olympics.” He said Beijing must be more patient because the Taiwanese felt a new identity and were less sympathetic to unification.
Over lunch, I met with a very well informed friend. He felt KMT would win, and he provided evidence. He said that when DPP figured out last April that it was 30 points behind in the polls, it decided to roll the ideological dice and bet the election on bringing out Taiwanese nationalist voters. A key feature of the strategy was to lure the Taiwanese grass-roots electorate to the polls with an anti-Chinese referendum. The press here was full of self-delusion. Supporters of independence would quote statements made by President Bush as supportive when they were not—not only in editorials but in news articles.
At the moment, two-thirds of the major cities and countries were ruled by Pan Blue. But the election was critical, with the DPP throwing everything into the fray. It feared, among other things, that if KMT won it might roll back the de-Sinization campaign—in which the Taiwanese children were trained to believe they had nothing in common with China. And, of course, it feared that if KMT won, it would use its political power to try to suppress the DPP’s chances of winning again.
If push came to shove, it seemed that China would lay out its policy to Washington and give the United States a last chance to influence Taiwan. But China might already be softening up its public for the fact that strong action might have to be taken. Scholars in China, an analyst said, were pessimistic. They seemed to be preparing the ground for military and political action. There was much, in this regard, that they could do to up the ante—air-raid drills and the like. They also could give Taiwan ultimatums about referendums related to the new Constitution. In a crisis, they could order foreign nationals out of Taiwan, which would have dramatic effects on the currency and on the stock market. They could insist that negotiations begin between Taiwan and China.
If KMT won, however, it would reach out to Washington and then start cross-strait talks.
Friday Morning: Escalation Possibilities
Reading the newspapers, it was clear that an intricate escalation ladder between the Mainland and Taiwan was forming. Chen Shui-bian was threatening to hold a quick referendum supporting independence if any military threat were made against Taiwan and, in particular, would drop the “five no’s” that he had adopted. Accordingly, the Mainland would have to move quickly to forestall such a referendum. So, in a crisis, it would probably give an ultimatum to Taiwan to start talks—an ultimatum conveyed perhaps through Washington, combined with a carrot—and then, if necessary, would move militarily. Articles showed China was preparing to do this.
It seemed that AIT “ambassador” Douglas Paal, who was a hawk in trying to restrain Chen Shui-bian, had been repeatedly overruled by the AIT chairperson in Washington, Shaheen, whom I had met right before leaving Washington.
Lunch at the Academy of Sciences
I went to lunch with Lee Yuan Tseh, Taiwan’s only Nobel Prize winner. I had learned that DPP was trying to “capture” Lee Yuan Tseh politically to prevent any defection to KMT. Meanwhile, KMT had stopped attacks on Lee in the hopes that Lee Yuan Tseh would not speak out against KMT again in this election. But he, I saw in the papers, felt a team had been formed “to stigmatize and attack me so that I would not influence the election this time.” In this upcoming election, he had already signed an ad with another industrialist urging an end to mud-slinging in the election and devotion to the “real” issues.
We had an intense exchange about the future of Taiwan, the differences between the parties, the implications of various electoral outcomes, China’s likely responses, and so on. At an earlier meeting, in October, Lee Yuan Tseh had flirted with the idea of putting out some kind of “scientific” and dispassionate statement of what the election really meant for Taiwan. At the moment, he seemed to feel everything should be left to the people, although his public advertisement—which called on the candidates to discuss the issues and stop name-calling—indicated that the people were not being told what the real issues were.
Riding home, I reflected that that PRC was not likely to deal with Chen Shui-bian even after all that Chen Shui-bian had said—but would try very hard to deal with KMT. This meant that Taiwan’s bargaining position would be maximized if KMT won. From China’s point of view, every red light was lit on its threat board since Chen Shui-bian had made no secret of what he was planning in his continued independence drive. And the periodic elections in Taiwan forced the Independence Party, if it wanted to be elected, to keep pressing these hot ideological buttons.
Loss of Face to Pay $1
A deputy head of the Mainland Affairs Council—which is the cabinet-level office charged with relations across the strait with the Mainland—discussed with me the structure of forthcoming events.
He was from a KMT background. So it was startling to learn that he would not accept my “one NT” deal. Under this deal, Taiwan would pay the Mainland $1 Taiwanese (about three cents) per year in symbolic tribute or rent to Beijing in return for running the island as it saw fit. This was indignantly rejected as a loss of face.
He summarized the difference between the parties in this way: Pan Blue wanted one China but not now; Pan Green wanted One China maybe.
Saturday Evening: Military Affairs Over Dumplings
At a small restaurant for working people that served delicious dumplings, an expert on military affairs gave me his analysis of what might happen first if Chen Shui-bian were elected. He thought that China might take back Quemoy and Matsu, which are, after all, right off the Mainland and are clear remnants of the civil war. Even the Taiwanese would not say that these belonged to Taiwan. There are other such islands.
He said that China always organized things as “self-defense” and, accordingly, some incident would be arranged to justify any actions against Taiwan. The military here was very unlikely to fight, and the American Institute of Taiwan was concerned about this. They asked generals, colonels, and others whether the men would fight and got the answer: “Well, it’s a good job.”
The Taiwanese public was not armed as, for example, were people in Yugoslavia. And there was no Switzerland-type defense planning where everyone could go and get a rifle. On the contrary, people joke that if the Chinese military came everyone would just go down and get a new registration card. Everything would go on as before, at least in the short run.
Chinese military airplanes and paratroopers can get to Taiwan in about 20 minutes, which is about what it takes for U.S. warplanes to get here from Okinawa.
With regard to a defensive referendum to announce a quick independence and call for help, in a crisis such a referendum would take too much time. And in the face of Chinese threats, it was not entirely clear that everyone would vote for independence and, accordingly, war. To approve the referendum, it would take 50 percent of all registered voters.
My guest showed me a recent paper in which he argued that the cross-strait debate was, at that time, really about three different visions of the status quo. The Taiwanese status quo was that it was already a sovereign state whose relations with the Mainland were state-to-state relations. The Beijing status quo was that Taiwan was part of China, that a peaceful resolution required one China and that a speeding military buildup would deal with any inevitable showdown. The U.S. status quo was that there should be no unilateral change and an enhancing of the U.S. military presence. He felt the chance of peaceful negotiation to settle the disputes was very remote and the likelihood of a speeding up of the arms race across the strait in 2004—2008 was great.
Sunday Lunch: A Distinguished Commentator
Sisy Chen, a TV commentator and parliamentarian, saw war coming if the election was won by Chen Shui-bian. The newspapers had quoted her as saying: “The whole country has gone crazy, reaching unprecedented levels of craziness! China is showing unprecedented unity, the U.S. is showing unprecedented unwillingness to send soldiers to protect Taiwan and Taiwan is showing unprecedented levels of daring.”
With regard to the China issue, according to polls, 33 percent thought China was a paper tiger. And 33 percent would welcome a crisis because it might lead to independence. Also, 33 percent thought a crisis would be dangerous. Only 10 percent were really hard-core independence seekers.
China had six airborne divisions of about 15,000 men each. In the face of an invasion, I was told, the Taiwan Army would evaporate, as defenses had in Iraq. One man told me: “Look, we are Chinese, we would just surrender.”
So the escalation ladder looked like this: Chinese deploy forces and issue an ultimatum; they ask foreign nationals to leave and the economy collapses; the Government prepares to negotiate; Chen Shui-bian resigns. Sisy thought a cross-strait crisis would precipitate a leadership crisis in Taipei and a new president.
Young People Reject Token Rent
Three young DPP people indignantly refused my test proposal that Taiwan give China 1 NT (about three cents) per year for the right to live in peace on Taiwan. They said that 70 percent of Taiwanese thought Taiwan was already independent—but they joked that they were not sure this would be true in ten years because of the attractive power of China and the fact that so many Taiwanese wanted to work there.
Military Threat Rising; Why Not Multilaterialize?
At 9:30 a.m. on Monday, I went to the American Institute of Taiwan, directed by Douglas Paal, who had been trying to get Washington to take seriously the danger that Chen Shui-bian was posing. Walking in front of his “embassy” to get my thoughts together, I came up with an idea to multilateralize the confrontation, as had been done with North Korean negotiations.
In the case of North Korea, President Bush had demanded that the entire region become involved so as to put maximum pressure on North Korea. Why not have the administration round up much the same involved regional actors (in this case, South Korea, Japan, and Russia) to discuss, with the United States, this other regional emergency? Why not, in the end, form some kind of advisory group to work with the United States to urge negotiations based on One China and to help guarantee any agreement reached?
The idea might sell in Washington because the states in question were democratic. And it might eventually be accepted by China because the states were all “One China states.” In any case, China could not veto a regional interest in consulting on this issue since the states involved can consult in any way they want.
AIT liked this idea, and I asked for help to raise it with the NSC in Washington.
I learned that the military situation was getting worse. The United States had moved a key Marine force to Iraq. Meanwhile, the Chinese were building up forces with great urgency and intensity and trying to gain the ability to get across the strait and up the coasts of Taiwan.
AIT was very worried about the Chinese capability to strike Taiwan. In the December 20 newspapers, one could see that Beijing had developed a “sudden-strike” capability. There would be a “seven-minute shock and strike” missile barrage to paralyze Taiwan’s command system, followed by 17 minutes in which Taiwan’s airspace would be invaded by fighter jets. (Note: it would take 20 minutes for U.S. fighters to get to Taiwan from Okinawa.) Within 24 hours of the strike, some 258,000 Chinese troops could be deployed in Taiwan.
This report, prepared by the Taiwan Defense and Strategic Studies Institute, said that Taiwan would have less than five minutes to respond to such a strike—the goal of which would be to prevent the United States from coming to Taiwan’s defense in time. On December 1, there had also been concern about a Fifth Column of Chinese spies infiltrating Taiwan. It was obvious that Taiwan’s small island could be threatened from every direction at once.
Su Chi Describes KMT’s Position
I met with Su Chi, the main cross-strait political adviser to KMT candidate Lien Chan. He was preoccupied with getting more support from America.
Among other things, we discussed an important article by Robert Sutter that had appeared in the January 28 Taipei Times. (Note) Sutter, an expert on the U.S. Congress, had argued persuasively that Congress was not going to come to the aid of Taiwan. His conclusion was that Congress would be listening attentively to Taiwan’s lobbyists but that, in the end, its arguments would be “offset by the recognition that Chen was seeking reelection by taking advantage of his U.S. ‘friend.’” He noted that this administration was known for punishing its enemies, and Congress was not likely to run afoul of it.
The speeches Su Chi gave me of Lien Chan showed that KMT was pledging not to continually needle the Mainland but, instead, to resume the cross-strait dialogue. Lien said that, between election and inauguration, he would go to the Mainland “under the principles of parity and dignity” and “demand that Beijing freeze and begin dismantling its missiles targeted at Taiwan.”
He would also seek to initiate regular cross-strait dialogue. He would seek to shelve political controversy and jointly participate in international organizations. The KMT would promote economic cooperation and establish a cross-strait common market. It would seek to terminate the state of hostilities and sign a cross-strait “peace accord.”
Later, at 12:30 p.m., Su Chi came over to the hotel and we talked for two hours. It was a very important chat. During this discussion, I had a brainstorm.
What I had proposed to AIT as a solution to the cross-strait crisis for the U.S. in the event that Chen Shui-bian won the presidency—regional involvement—could be advanced by KMT itself in the event that KMT won.
In a series of “idea negotiations,” between courses at the Regent buffet, we agreed on a three-step process in which KMT could, itself, multilateralize the Taiwan-Mainland negotiations without waiting for the U.S. administration to do so. Since Su Chi would be traveling with Lien Chan and seemed to be his senior political adviser, I thought that—if KMT won the election—it would attempt to multilateralize the conflict.
Back in the hotel preparing to leave, I felt well satisfied with the trip. Direct hotel and travel expenses were only $3,000 total, and yet major proposals had been made both to KMT and to the American administration. And more had been achieved in private discussions of various kinds. Meanwhile, of course, much has been learned about the situation in Taiwan.
Later, on November 19, 2003, former Vice Premier Qian Qichen warned Secretary of State Colin Powell that “Washington’s failure to take a clear-cut line on Taiwan independence might jeopardize peace in the Taiwan Strait.”
ALERTING THE U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
On March 1, 2004, I went to the National Security Council and met with Michael Green (chief of the Asian division) and Ford Hart (in charge of Taiwan) and handed over a short memo to warn the White House: “If DPP wins, Taiwan will be a clear and present danger to American national security” (bold in original). It said: “Taiwan is now like an ancient Greek city state whose population has, through a combination of arrogance, chutzpah and hubris—and demagogic stances taken in frequent elections—lost sight of geographic, strategic and political reality.” (Appendix)
In a second memo, I proposed multilateralizing the problem. If Chen Shui-bian won the election, the administration would merely do to Taiwan what it did to North Korea—turn the crisis into a multilateral negotiation. And I noted that if Lien Chan won, he would try to do something comparable. I observed that “KMT experts have advised me that this ‘multilateralize’ proposal would be, for them and for Taiwan, a ‘crowd-pleaser.’” (Appendix)
Three weeks later, Chen Shui-bian won the election by the tiniest of margins, .2 percent. And this occurred only because of the sympathy vote accorded him after an incident in which someone fired bullets at him and the vice presidential candidate immediately before the election.
According to the official account, he was grazed in the stomach and Vice President Lu shot in the knee. But many in Taiwan thought this assassination attempt, and superficial wounds, were too good to be true. The KMT called for an investigation headed by the head of the Control Yuan—the GAO of Taiwan—but the investigation was, in the end, derailed.
Three weeks after the election, on April 9, 2004, I returned to see Michael Green and to drive home the idea of multilateralizing the conflict with a three-page options paper. Option A was “muddling through” and not recommended. Option B was “Multilateralizing the Cross-Strait Problem” with a “coalition for peace in the strait.” It would be composed of democratic states such as Japan, Australia, South Korea, Canada, Sweden, and others. This would persuade the U.S. Congress that the coalition would not sell out Taiwan. On the other hand, all these states supported the One China principle, so China would be tranquilized.
Option C was for the administration to prepare a white paper with a zero-base, bottom-up review of the Taiwanese situation—something I said I did not think the administration had the energy for. (Appendix)
These two meetings were halfway between the March election in Taiwan and the May inaugural speech of Chen Shui-bian. Accordingly, the National Security Council was trying to figure out how to influence Chen Shui-bian’s inaugural speech. On April 11, I sent the memo titled “Five Points of Leverage in Negotiations with Chen Shui-bian” to Green. (Appendix)
REDEFINING “TAIWAN AUTHORITIES” IN CHINA
In February 2004, I had gone to Taiwan in anticipation of the March 20 election to investigate what was happening. There seemed no point to traveling to China on that trip since—the election being imminent—there was nothing much to discuss with Beijing except speculation on the results.
Accordingly, I decided to visit China after the election and, indeed, only after the May 20 inauguration speech of the winner. Accordingly, I left Washington on May 26 to visit Beijing.
The trip to China began with problems. My host, the China Reform Forum, began relaying, from Chinese agencies from whom I had requested appointments, ever more intrusive questions—questions that were increasingly pointed about my views. Finally, I was advised that two organizations (the American division of the Foreign Ministry and the Taiwan Affairs Office) had joined in asking me to specify the persons, organizations, and dates of all meetings and contacts I had had in Taiwan. This violated all the principles of Catalytic Diplomacy. I declined to answer.
These unprecedented questions arose, in the first instance, because Vice Minister Zhou Mingwei of the Taiwan Affairs Office had been demoted and then replaced. He had moved on to serve as Executive Vice Director-General in the China Foreign Languages Publishing and Distribution Administration.
Also, the election shock must have made the Chinese ever more alert to who was on which side. There was a new hawkish mood in China that had led to ideological shifts in the Taiwan Affairs Office. I feared that I was being questioned harshly in part because my past ten friendly visits had been “washed out” by this shift.
Remember, I had been publicly accused, by The Washington Post in October 2000, of being an “unofficial envoy” from the very same Chen Shui-bian who had just won the election in Taiwan on secessionist grounds. Certainly, I had been speaking well of Chen up until August 9, 2002, and urging talks with him; now there was zero trust and confidence in him.
In any case, I wrote a letter dated May 19 to President Hu Jintao with some advice on Taiwan and put a cover letter on this letter to former Vice Premier Qian Qichen, who had received me twice, and asked him to relay my letter to the president. (I later learned he did do this.) (Appendix) I think, actually, what they were fishing for was the simple statement “I support the One China policy,” which in fact I did.
Arrival in Beijing on Thursday, May 27
I arrived at the hotel without incident. Friends said that, under these circumstances of heightened suspicion, I should remain “cool” and that one’s own “suspicions can become your enemy.” (I was learning the psychology with which Chinese keep themselves afloat in a sea of potentially lethal perturbations.)
In the morning, I met at the Foreign Ministry for an hour with the deputy director of the American desk, Zheng Zeguang, whom I had met before. He was extremely young looking. He was friendly and said they would do something with the letters but that, in future, I should send requests for appointments well in advance of my visit to the Chinese Embassy and give them more time.
In the afternoon, at the China Reform Forum, I met with two researchers and led off with a key Socratic question: Who are the Taiwanese “authorities” of which the Chinese government speaks so much?
Was Chen Shui-bian really the Taiwan authority or—now that Taiwan was organized as a democracy—were the Taiwanese people the real authorities? And if the latter, why did not China invite the Taiwanese people to approve the opening of negotiations rather than barking up the wrong tree by demanding that its current elected president pronounce the dread words “One China principle.” (I called this idea, in my letter to President Hu, the “democratic finesse.”)
One researcher said I was using Western thinking and China was using Eastern thinking. The other said it was a truly excellent question.
I explained my idea: invite the Taiwanese people to vote on the question of opening talks on the basis of the One China principle. The Taiwanese would have little to worry about; after all, in any case, the results of the negotiation would have to be approved by the Taiwanese people before anything could be implemented.
Asked whether Taiwan was drifting away, both said, “economically no but politically yes.” But Mainland public opinion was now supporting reunification more strongly.
The scholars were alarmed that the Asian Wall Street Journal had recently reported that 2005 and 2006 were points of maximum danger. China scholars were talking about the use of force. The urgent task was to restart talks and to figure out how to use economic relations to promote better political relations.
I asked one researcher about my proposed 1 NT solution in which Taiwan just acknowledges that it is part of one China by paying $1 a year in rent. Wang said this was quite acceptable but thought it must be a joke. But what, I then asked, did China really want from Taiwan? Wang said, “Integrity of China and recognition of sovereignty.” Taiwan would give up nothing except diplomatic rights. After reunification, Taiwan would be a special administrative region and would send representatives to regional meetings in only a secondary capacity.
By this time, I was getting rather aggressive in urging China Reform Forum officials and guides not to attend my talks as a kind of silent witness—this attendance was the normal Chinese custom. So I managed to be left alone for a dinner meeting with their chief executive, Ding Kuisong.
The dinner was a success because, in the process of our talk, I fine-tuned an idea in my letter to Hu Jintao. At a suitable time, China could appeal over the head of Chen Shui-bian for a vote of the Taiwanese people in a referendum pitting independence versus negotiations. (The negotiations would be on a reunified China with autonomy, dignity, and democracy for Taiwan.) This would be an offer that a majority of Taiwanese could not refuse and that the United States could endorse.
The Taiwanese would not vote for independence over talks because they would consider it too dangerous. Moreover, they would vote for talks in the assurance that nothing would be approved, in any case, until the talks were ended and the tentative agreement ratified by them. And China could thus have the ultimate endorsement of the Taiwanese people for talks on the basis of the One China principle.
Chinese officials who might complain that this was too soft, or too dangerous, would be told that this was, at the least, better than immediate hostile action because it would show that China had gone the last mile.
Ding agreed to look at a first draft and work it over. (This worked well for me on an earlier visit when Ding helped my campaign to have China host the North Korea talks.) He is one of those few free agents in China with good connections but without any bureaucracy sitting on him.
Drafting the Democratic Finesse, and General Pan
Working from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., with a brief break for breakfast, I managed to prepare a draft statement of the kind that the Chinese government could make to Taiwan if it wished and a dozen “frequently asked questions” in which questions were posed and answers made about the proposal. (Appendix)
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., I went out with a guide and, in the course of the afternoon, had my head sculpted by a famous sculptor from Taiwan, now living in Beijing. My wife said, later, that it did not look like me at all. Told that the Chinese thought it did, she said: “To the Chinese, all Americans look alike.”
I returned to work on the democratic-finesse project.
I took a nap and then a cab ride to a distant hotel, where I met with a retired general, Major General Pan Zhenqiang, from the Institute for Strategic Studies of the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army. He was a fairly active Pugwash member and actually remembered my name from the 1972 period when he was working for the army on U.S.-China relations and I brought the first scientific delegation from the United States to Beijing.
I went out for a walk with a hired guide to Behai Gardens. She was 27 and unmarried. She lived with a friend and was looking for work after returning from Canada. At the moment, she worked for the guide agency. She said there was absolutely no privacy in China, and when she returned home, the neighbors want to know everything about her life—salary, boyfriends, and so on.
The May 17 statement of the Chinese government said little about reunification but emphasized stability. Under these circumstances, why should a condition for starting the talks be the admission that there was only One China? Instead, perhaps Chen Shui-bian should merely be required to say that he would stop undermining the status quo. Perhaps this would be a good idea.
Apparently Chen Shui-bian’s statement that “we share a common heritage” can be read in Chinese to mean “in the past, we shared a common heritage.” Beijing seemed to have no idea now what was required for reunification. What came after the talks start, if they did at all, seemed very ill-defined.
Beijing was worried that Chen Shui-bian was becoming the strongman of Taiwan. Apparently even Ma on May 4 said that Chen Shui-bian might be the next authoritarian. China feared that, by 2004—2006, no one could control him.
At 4 p.m., I met with a man who had been involved in the very many drafts for the Chinese government of the May 17 statement. He was quite well informed. He said Jiang Zemin was developing a harder and harder line. The situation, in general, was very bad, with no trust across the strait. Chen Shui-bian had not given up his timetable. The Mainland thought use of force was the necessary and last resort.
Unfortunately, China could not just threaten to cut economic links because this was what the Taiwan authorities wanted. It would not be enough to get them to give up the independence road and would only hurt China. The use of force might involve cutting Taiwanese economic links and transportation lines. And if the situation were not resolved now, it would be a big obstacle to development. Taiwanese independence has wasted a great deal of diplomatic time and resources (forcing China to stay in a “passive” position) and even monies to prevent countries from recognizing Taiwan. Finally, Taiwan was important to the China economy.
He felt waiting for Chen Shui-bian to leave office risked finding that DPP was still in office. And Taiwan being out of control could affect stability in the Mainland with riots much like those of 1989 by outraged students. China felt that KMT and the Taiwanese public were weaker and weaker. They had been expected to control things but weren’t. Furthermore, the Taiwan situation might trigger anti-American attitudes, and so there could be problems from the public on both fronts. Also, the Politburo might feel that reunifying the country was an opportunity to get the prestige necessary to develop the country. The public would accept force because they think that peaceful reunification had failed and was a weak policy.
China feared that the next four years might lead to independence and there might be a showdown by independence forces. They might try to use the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics for a showdown.
What to do? He recommended a positive message to prevent an incident from DPP before 2008. Meanwhile, the Mainland had come to the conclusion that force was necessary. He thought the situation was very dangerous.
The key redlines from China’s point of view were: no referendums on any form of relationship across the strait; no change of the Constitution; no change in the flag; no change in the name of the nation or the territory.
When asked why they feared a vote by the people since the Taiwanese were much more pragmatic than Chen Shui-bian, he said: “Maybe you are right, but there is a possibility that they would choose independence and we don’t want to risk it.”
Monday: Zhou Mingwei
A morning meeting with the deputy director of the Institute on American Studies being canceled, I caught up on sleep and began preparing a careful letter for my meeting on Tuesday with the Office of Taiwan Affairs of the State Council. This looked good and contained three ideas.
In the afternoon, I met with Zhou Mingwei, former deputy director of the Office of Taiwan Affairs, who had, six months previously, been shifted to running the China Foreign Languages Publishing and Distribution Administration. This organization of 2,400 people translates and distributes material into 20 languages and exchanges book rights with foreign countries, among other things.
I was the first of Zhou’s former American contacts to meet with him since his change of job, and he was touched. He remembered with real emotion some kindnesses I had shown him. For example, during a visit to America, he had been under attack in the Taiwanese press for threatening war with Taiwan. I had driven to Reagan Airport to see him off and had given him a letter explaining the difference between a warning and a threat and encouraged him to express his apprehensions in terms of warnings that war would be inevitable if Taiwan continued on its course rather than to say anything that Taiwanese authorities could deliberately misinterpret as a threat.
Taiwan Affairs Office Lacks English
Right before our meeting, I discovered the devastating news that my new contact at the Taiwan Affairs Office, who was to be General Wang Zaixi, did not, in fact, speak English—as I had been told he did. I lost sleep the next night trying to decide how to deal with the fact that the Taiwan Affairs Office seemed to have gone, in a variety of ways, from being the best place to raise my ideas to the worst. What to do? It seemed, from a number of conversations, that my ideas, while logical, would require the motivated efforts of some Chinese first to translate them into a Chinese way of thinking and then to push them through to a successful conclusion.
I had also become convinced that I had made a mistake. Because I gave the official letters addressed to Hu Jintao to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, it had been able, I decided, based on something said to me, to tell President Hu’s office that it was handling my ideas. I feared that, in fact, neither the Foreign Ministry nor the Taiwan Affairs Office could now really handle my thinking—Zhou Mingwei having left that office.
Meanwhile, a phone conversation with B.J.—with whom I speak every night at 10 p.m.—had alerted me to a newspaper article saying that Jiang Zemin was regaining influence over Hu’s Taiwan policy.
Taiwan Affairs Office: General Wang Zaixi
At 2:30 p.m., I met with the deputy director of the Office of Taiwan Affairs of the State Council, Wang Zaixi, for almost 90 minutes. The State Council is similar to our National Security Council, and this person was the deputy director for the Office of Taiwan Affairs section. A former three-star general, Wang turned out to be soft-looking, friendly, and close to visible sadness when the talk turns to war. He spoke very little English and had never been to Taiwan. His understanding of politics was typical of Chinese and turned mainly on “Is he sincere?” and not at all on the political pressures that we look toward in a Western-style democracy.
The Chinese position was a composite of absurdities. Chen Shui-bian was not sincere, but if he adopted the One China principle we could talk to him (i.e., he would suddenly become sincere). But talks without agreeing on the underlying principle were not worth having.
He opened by expressing admiration for my achievements in arms control and human rights. I showed him the two chapters of my book, including the photo with Zhou En-lai.
I then made an extended pitch for asking the Taiwanese public, as the real authorities, to support negotiation on the basis of the One China principle through a referendum—my democratic finesse. I explained why that would not hurt China’s eventual rights to go to war but would, in fact, help them by showing they had gone the last mile. And I explained why the Taiwanese would vote the right way—voting for negotiations was easy and prudent, whereas rejecting them could be dangerous.
On the way, I explained how the Taiwanese felt about the Mainland—from their hatred of Chiang Kai-shek’s army to their disgust with the missiles fired at them in 1996 by Jiang Zemin. I explained how determined DPP leaders were—having gone from prison to power, they were unlikely to decide that anything was an impossible dream.
He said the issue was very complicated and not all things in Taiwanese politics were visible. Theoretically, leaders should be of the same view as the people, but Chen Shui-bian was elected in illegal ways. So the Taiwanese people were not really the Taiwanese authorities. But he agreed that more should be done to help and appeal to the Taiwanese people. But we could not solve the problem by putting our hopes on the Taiwanese leaders. Many people said we should sit down without negotiations regardless of what agreement we would reach. But Chen Shui-bian was tricky. Sincerity is a precondition. And, he seemed to say, Chen Shui-bian would not do what the Taiwanese people said they wanted, even if there were a vote. Both sides should have the will to make progress. One China is a fact. If Chen Shui-bian cannot accept it, they could not negotiate with him.
But, he said, we agreed that, if the Taiwanese people would, by majority, support negotiations, the problem would be easier. To which I responded, “Then why not ask them?”
My hosts, two of which were there, were very impressed with the meeting, even startled with the power of it. I was in good form. And they loved the various animal stories I provided: the Tang Dynasty horse story, the bullfight analogy (bull=China; picador=Taiwan; bullfighter=America), and the pig-in-a-poke analogy to the One China principle requirement, wherein the buyer is told to agree in principle to buying the pig before looking at it.
My hosts wanted to know when I was coming back. They thought they might be able to organize higher meetings. Clearly, in a number of ways, I have made very good friends with them. The China Reform Forum has photographs of very famous American visitors on the walls of their meeting room (e.g., Brent Scowcroft, Kissinger, Perry, Bush, etc.), and they said that, soon, I would join them. (More soft soap!)
Wednesday: Lin Di of the CICEC
Over breakfast, I met with another vice chairman of the China Reform Forum, my old friend Lin Di, who had been Secretary-General of CICEC, a major group in cultural exchange. Lin Di had been to my house for dinner once and had helped me a great deal in the past—especially in getting meetings with Vice Premier Qian Qichen. Once he even tried to “bribe” me with a meeting with President Jiang Zemin—if only I would take sides between Taiwan and China.
Lin Di was 50 and considering retirement. His expectations for income were not great, he said, because he had worked in the countryside for ten years during the Cultural Revolution. During this period he earned, besides room and board, $10 per year. His hope, then, was for a pension of 30RMB per month. Many of the people I meet with were veterans with similar stories, and their approach to life was one hard for us Westerners to imagine.
Lin Di remembered translating a letter to Jiang Zemin that I sent in October 1999 that, as Lin Di puts it, told China that it had not just one, but two, lines of defense for Taiwan (i.e., that even if Taiwan declared independence, no one would recognize it).
I left that afternoon on the 4:35 p.m. plane and arrived home the same day at 9:30 p.m. on June 3, a door-to-door trip of about 20 hours.
Taiwan After the 2004 Inaugural
Things were getting worse. On June 7, before I left for Taiwan, a key China-Taiwan expert shared my pessimism about the Taiwan-China situation and said the new folks appointed by Chen Shui-bian to Taipei government positions were ever weaker intellectually. Key Taiwanese officials were quitting or being pushed aside.
On Thursday, in Taiwan, a scholar said he was planning a scholarly conference on the dangers of escalation if cross-strait relations took a wrong turn. He said the Pentagon had encouraged Taiwan to consider the option, if necessary, of threatening to bomb the Three Gorges Dam in China. This, in turn, would encourage the Mainland to try to take out all of Taiwan’s aircraft at the outset of any conflict. I recommended, among other things, that all participants at such a conference be asked to read Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August and Roberta Wohlstetter’s Signals and Decisions at Pearl Harbor as well as a book on how the Japanese militarists conspired to produce war between Japan and China in the 1930s.
All three of these interlocutors agreed that a “train wreck” in cross-strait relations was coming, and most believed China would never give up Taiwan for reasons that go beyond communism and even beyond nationalism to Confucianism.
One expert said that if a vote were held on whether to open talks with the Mainland, 40–50 percent would say “yes” and 25 percent “no.” Few would vote for independence.
In a poll, the David Lampton–Ken Lieberthal idea—in which the Mainland would agree not to use force for 50 years and the Taiwanese would agree not to declare independence for the same period—got 42 percent strongly in favor and 21 percent slightly in favor. It would be accomplished, its advocates say, by referendum.
There was widespread fear that DPP might become the dominant political party, with the two-party system thereby undermined. In particular, PFP and KMT were having trouble getting together.
At 10 a.m. on July 10, I met with Chiou I-jen, the head of the National Security Council (i.e., the equivalent of America’s Condoleezza Rice); he was also the chief political adviser (i.e., the Karl Rove of this administration). When I first met him, in 1999, he was the campaign manager of candidate Chen Shui-bian, and since then he held a different title on each of my dozen visits, most recently head of the Presidential Office.
I left this meeting rather depressed. I had failed to come up with some good idea, and most of the meeting had descended into a polite exchange of pointless arguments as to which side was to blame for the impasse in cross-strait negotiations. But the next morning, in a hot bath, I decided he had told me a number of useful, if depressing, things.
(1) When asked “Does Taiwan plan to become fully independent?”, he now said “Whatever the people vote for.” This meant that the leadership was planning to keep moving toward a referendum vote on whatever the leadership put forward and that DPP wanted to assume that Taiwan would have the full right of self-determination—which, of course, the international community rejects. So the China-Taiwan train wreck was still on track.
(2) He assured me that Chen Shui-bian did not intend, for the next four years, to go back to the demagogic calls for independence that characterized the last election campaign (i.e., this retreat was not just for the next two years—until the parliamentary elections—but for the rest of his term).
(3) In the final exchange—outside the meeting room with its note taker—Chiou I-jen urged me to tell the Chinese to try “one more time” to start talks, saying, “The international community will guarantee any results reached.”
This was a response to my assertion that Chen Shui-bian changed his mind so often that the Chinese could not negotiate with him in confidence. But it revealed, nonetheless, that the Taiwanese National Security Council was thinking in terms of pulling the world community into the final result. (This, in turn, was closely related to an idea I proposed to the Bush administration in the fall, that a coalition of democratically organized regional states be convened to buffer the quarrel rather than leave it only to U.S. politics.) The idea that he wanted me to push—that Taiwan was prepared to discuss any issue, including the One China principle, but to discuss it only as an issue—was one I readily recalled. It was the idea I sold Chen Shui-bian in my second meeting with him in 2000. Apparently, this idea was still alive—a fact worth considering.
(4) I raised the issue of Taiwan trying to get a deterrent against the Mainland, as urged by the Pentagon, in the form of a strike force to hit the Three Gorges Dam or the center of Shanghai’s famous tower. He said, “This is not so easy.” This was confirmed by what I read that night in a newspaper analysis—it required refueling over Chinese airspace. Unfortunately, Vice Minister of National Defense Tsai Ming-hsien had termed it possible. The worst thing about discussing all this was that it would lead the Mainland to prepare to preempt against all Taiwanese military bases at the outset.
(5) On the Three Links, he blamed the Mainland for reversing itself on the issue of whether the flights were “domestic” or not—an ideological hang-up for the Taiwanese. But it seemed clear that the Mainland wanted the flights and Taiwan did not—but Taiwan wouldn’t admit it.
(6) In some ways, the worst moment in the meeting was when he advised me that Chen Shui-bian was going to chair the Commission on Cross-Strait Stability rather than Nobel Prize–winner Lee Yuan Tseh, whom I would meet on Monday. My hopes for that commission, and for bringing Vincent Siew into it, may have been undermined by that fact. He did concede that the guidelines for the commission—which had been prepared earlier by former MAC Chairman Tsai Ing-wen—were “just a draft.” This draft was a nonstarter.
After the meeting, I walked around the city somewhat dispiritedly and found a place where one could eat dumplings for $1.20. A 50-cent handout to a poor man received a response, which, unless I am mistaken, was: “I love you, man.”
Sisy Chen: Parliamentarian and TV Personality
Sisy Chen was a parliamentarian and TV commentator. Associated with DPP originally, she became an independent associated with KMT. She was very wealthy and very angry with Chen Shui-bian. As usual she arrived late for the elegant dinner she hosted and kept the waiters waiting for hours later as the talk went on.
The dinner, in a private club, was a culinary disaster as far as I was concerned. She described it plausibly as the “best Italian-Japanese restaurant in town,” but the food ranged from the inscrutable, to the inedible, to the carb-heavy pasta and cake. And, as in many high-end restaurants, there was no choice. But Sisy is interesting and devoted to me—in part, I think, because I solved some of her many health problems by prescribing Juvenon to help her energy and by giving her a book by Lester Packer—The Anti-oxidant Miracle.
Sisy knew all the political dirt on everybody. She thought the gunshot incident had something to do with a doctor named Wang who was the intermediary between Mrs. Chen Shui-bian and various investment favor-seekers. Sisy was deeply involved in the shooting incident. On the evening it happened, she received a call from a nurse at the hospital advising her that the whole thing was a kind of hoax and that Chen did not look like he was shot at all.
Sisy went on the air with this and tried to stem the sympathy vote for Chen Shui-bian. Much later, KMT officials complained that she had mishandled the affair and hurt their effort—this was the finger-pointing that resulted from their loss. (In fact, I later learned that she not only informed the high-level KMT officials of this call but also was selected by them to tell the public about it.)
The DPP was, she thought, composed of professional agitators who didn’t really want independence but wanted to call for it.
She said the Mainlanders felt that they had become like the Jews in prewar Germany and that many might leave Taiwan. In general, Taiwanization was going on apace. At the time, 74 percent of the population was Taiwanese, with another 13 percent Hakka and 13 percent Mainlander (and 1 percent aboriginal). The notion of One China had become pejorative. Ethnic politics and ethnic identity were in full sway. Taiwan was drifting into a one-party system. Lee Teng-hui, the former president, had said that internal reconciliation—between Mainlanders and Taiwanese—can begin only when 75 percent of the major officeholders were Taiwanese.
Pushing the red lines (i.e., the lines that might lead to use of military force by China) had become a kind of hobby for the DPP. And Lee Teng-hui was proposing a new kind of name permutation—the “Taiwan Republic of China”—which was used by Chen Shui-bian in his inaugural speech to please Lee Teng-hui. This was a “creeping” name change toward renaming the country as Taiwan.
Saturday: How Politics Encumbers the Dialogue
A clever analyst explained to me how cluttered was the political calendar right through 2012. There was hardly a quiet moment.
November 2004: U.S. presidential election
December 2004: Taiwan parliamentary election
2005: Country municipal elections in Taiwan
2006: Changes in the Taiwan Constitution
December 2006: KMT Mayor Ma of Taipei steps down, as does DPP Mayor Frank Hsieh of Kaohsiung—these are the leading contenders for the presidency in Taiwan of their parties.
September-November 2007: 17th Party Congress in China
December 2007: Taiwan parliamentary election
March 2008: Taiwan presidential election
August 2008: Summer Olympics in China
It looked like constant trouble and constant temptation for the DPP to revert to baiting the Mainland for internal political purposes.
Ho Szu-Yin: KMT Policy Adviser
I met with a professor of political science at National Chengchi University. He said a climate of political correctness had been generated by the DPP in which saying things about China was acceptable only if those things were bad. Everyone was careful about what he said. Many people felt tricked by Chen Shui-bian with regard to the shooting incident, and as a result there could well be a backlash if evidence proved the shooting was a hoax; the Chinese were getting really angry about Taiwan, and he agreed that a train wreck was in the offing.
At 3 p.m., over tea, I met with Andrew Yang of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies (CAPS) who ran a nonprofit organization devoted to analyzing the Chinese military that, from time to time, held relevant conferences and issues reports. He was frequently quoted in the English-language press.
He was planning to hold a conference on the various things that the Mainland could do to Taiwan for which there was no real military answer. We talked about ways to make this conference a success. The basic fact, we agreed, was that Taiwan was so close to China, and so intimately related to it, that China had hordes of relevant options to cause pain to Taiwan.
Indeed, Yang said that China’s recent effort to slow its economy had already had a serious collateral effect on the Taiwanese economy. In effect, when China sneezes, Taiwan gets pneumonia. He thought the atmosphere in Taiwan got more and more McCarthyite as passions and political correctness took hold. And the newspapers simply filtered out comments that were not part of the conventional wisdom.
A spokesman for the president described to me, in detail, all the things that the president had tried and how he had been rebuffed by the Chinese. I was reminded that another observer, a member of Chen Shui-bian’s administration, had told me that: “Chen Shui-bian felt he was sincere and trying hard to reach agreement with China, but he was naive about what it would take to get through the Chinese bureaucracy and the time and patience required.”
Emile Sheng, An Objective Pollster
A political pollster told me that the shooting incident did produce an enormous sympathy swing vote (8–10 percent) for Chen Shui-bian, just as I had been told and quite contrary to what the DPP spokesman wanted people to believe. But the voting had been going against Chen for social reasons; in fact, more people were supporting Chen Shui-bian’s independence ideas, he said, than in the 2000 election.
Chen Shui-bian was not in too much danger, however, of any proof of this shooting incident coming out. The electorate had moved on in its thinking. And the media and judiciary were not sufficiently independent to probe the whole thing carefully.
When I shared some of my ideas with the pollster, he commented sagely that my approach to issues was one of problem-solving, whereas the DPP approach to issues was to use them in an electoral strategy. They did not want the problem solved. (He thought there might be an exception for Chen Shui-bian after the next parliamentary election, which would be, after all, his last election.) He was, of course, right, but I am still trying problem-solving.
A major idea came out of a discussion of a suggestion I had made in China, that is, the idea that Beijing might ask the Taiwanese people to vote, by referendum, to open the talks on any basis China wanted as long as the results of the negotiations were subject to a later Taiwanese vote on the final tentative agreement.
He agreed that, by Taiwanese law, such a referendum could be catalyzed by a 5 percent vote and that there was a coalition that might try to put such a referendum to the test. (We discussed how I might reach this coalition. He suggested I meet Huang Kuang-kuo of Taiwan University, and within 24 hours I had arranged exactly such an appointment and had a wonderful discussion.)
Dinner with Young DPP Members
Over dinner, I met with two young DPP people, a new Ph.D. in China studies, 34 years old, and his 25-year-old girlfriend, who was getting a master’s degree in business administration. The Ph.D. was about to set out to China for a conference. He said that he was startled at the shooting incident and thought to himself, "How did Chen Shui-bian do this? But now he seemed uncertain about what it all meant. And he confirmed that many of his DPP friends just thought more of Chen Shui-bian for sneaking past the opposition.
By Sunday night, by dint of working at all hours since my arrival on Wednesday night, I had completed reading the newspapers from March, April, May, June, and the first two weeks of July; the important things I learned had been typed.
Lee Yuan Tseh Determined the Election Results
On Monday at 10 a.m., I met for an hour with the president of the Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s only Nobel laureate, Lee Yuan Tseh. His intervention in 2000 had elected Chen Shui-bian, and in 2004 his last-minute endorsement may well have elected Chen Shui-bian again, since Lee’s endorsement was followed by the extremely narrow victory margin of Chen Shui-bian—two-tenths of a percent.
He was in touch with Chinese colleagues, and they reported that the worst had happened. Taiwan was now being used in the power struggle in Beijing. Jiang Zemin was taking the hard line against Hu Jintao. And if Jiang was vindicated, then by 2006 something bad might happen across the strait. (This was something I will want to check in Washington with China watchers, but it represented a sharper formulation of what was occurring than has been in print so far.)
Tsai Ing-Wen: Former Chairman Of MAC
I rushed off to the American Club to interview a high-ranking former official—a cagey female lawyer who resembled Honey in the Doonesbury cartoon. She tried to say as little as possible. She admitted that no Chinese official could start talks without some concession on the One China principle. She felt that the United States would have the influence to control China only for the next five or ten years. She would not say what would happen after that, but it suggested that Taiwan felt it was working against a deadline.
A Perfect Storm Arising?
At the American Institute of Taiwan, an American official thought the “perfect storm” in China-Taiwan relations would exist the next fall, after the parliamentary elections in Taiwan, the presidential election in Washington, and factional fighting in the Politburo in China on whether to “teach Taiwan a lesson.”
I met with a key leader of the third-force movement. This was arranged for Tuesday. I felt referendums could be used to force the Taiwanese political system to confront the real problems facing Taiwan. I considered this a major idea that would, in principle, change the balance of politics in Taiwan from deadlock or confrontation with the Mainland to something much more constructive.
The memo I provided argued for a referendum on opening negotiations and finessing the One China principle. It paralleled and built upon an idea I had suggested in China in May.
But by early Tuesday morning, I saw potential problems with this and, unsure what reaction I would get at my Tuesday morning meeting, prepared another one-page memo applying the referendum idea to another major problem—that of the Three Links.
Huang Kuang-kuo: Political Organizer
Yun-han Chu had rounded up Huang for tea at 9:30 a.m., and the three of us met in a coffee shop for an hour. I emphasized that organizing a third force around “issues” rather than “organizations” was the way to go in terms of organizational self-interest. The two referenda I had drafted could round up a lot of support for this third way. And both parties—DPP and KMT—would be hard-pressed not to support the referenda. Then the referenda would pass by large margins.
China could hardly refuse to negotiate if the Taiwanese public asked for it in this way. I used examples from psychology to make my points since Huang is a famous professor of psychology. And at the end, when Huang was warmly endorsing my ideas and thanking me, I mentioned the Solomon Ashe experiment on conformity. According to this experiment, one person can be persuaded that he is wrong if he is isolated, but if there are two who agree, they cannot be swayed. His support, I said, persuaded me that my ideas were “not crazy.”
This was certainly the most important meeting of this trip. As usual, it came about through random encounters and ideas invented on the spot—in this case, through conversation with a pollster. But, also as usual, the new ideas were built out of building blocks of other ideas as I got farther and farther into the subject. But in the end, the group running the referenda evidently decided to organize their campaign around a referendum on buying U.S. weapons.
Liu Shih-chung: Presidential Aide
Racing back to the hotel in Yun-han’s chauffeured limo, I met at 11:45 a.m. with President Chen Shui-bian’s hard-working aide Liu Shih-chung. He looked sleepy even after two cups of coffee. Chen Shui-bian was a workaholic of tremendous proportions and violated the human rights of his aides, who survived barely.
Shih-chung asked, “Well, what do you have for us for advice?” and listened patiently to my complaints, after which I came up with a few particulars:
(1) Chen Shui-bian should return to emphasizing the slogan “Economic and Cultural Integration” rather than “Peace and Stability” and should, at least, work on Three Links. This would be considered more sincere in China than “Peace and Stability.”
(2) Chen Shui-bian should put Vincent Siew in charge of this negotiation and, in particular, economic integration. If necessary, he should schmooze with Vincent to persuade him; I reminded Shih-chung that Vincent was leaving the KMT ruling committee. This also would be considered more sincere in China because Vincent Siew, everyone there knew, was running a cross-strait economic foundation and wanted nothing more than the Three Links, which China wanted also.
So this was a useful meeting. It took 27 hours to get home through Los Angeles.
Trip Report #32, Taiwan 7/9—7/14, 2004
A month later, from July 9 to July 14, I traveled to Taiwan to see whether the May inaugural of the new administration had provided any new grounds for starting talks between the Mainland and Taiwan.
A promising visit resulted. We threw some useful cold water on the Chen Shui-bian administration’s complacency and provided some constructive ideas to persons involved in the official cross-strait dialogue. We tried to shape the Taiwanese effort into directions more negotiable (viz., Three Links and economic integration) rather than those that are cosmetic and highly political (“Peace and Stability”). And we provided some help to those then charged to investigate the assassination attempt.
As the trip was coming to a close, a new avenue opened up—an emerging “third force” of popular opinion. It was urged to concentrate efforts on a campaign to put two cross-strait–related resolutions on the Taiwanese ballot as referenda. This could help put the public on record as wanting dialogue with the Mainland as well as the Three Direct Links (direct travel, shipping, and mail) between the Mainland and Taiwan.